Cover illustration by Henry Fox
Texan Mike Rayburn left his post in the American city-hospital and flew across the world to Sydney, Australia. To the bridge, the harbor; to the city and world that was newer even somehow than the one he had left behind. On an exchange agreement, he was on loan for six months to the huge research hospital on the outskirts of the sprawling, brawling, exciting city. He was sorry to leave behind his friends and colleagues, and in particular his fiancée, Susan, with whom he had shared so much during his training and the unending strife of a surgeon’s life. But he was glad to carry the battle further afield, to meet new people, learn new methods. In this other city within a city he met the same dedication, the same loves, the same hates and envies. He met other men who were like himself; other men who pretended to be like himself and were not. He met women too, and one in particular who sought his love … and a strange man who sought his friendship.
“A surgeon was just a glorified plumber.”
“I would have liked to be a surgeon. But I suppose that most women just haven’t got the manual strength and skill.”
“Mike Rayburn couldn’t help feeling that the teenager today was a mass-produced product, irrespective of race, creed or language. They had bags of verve though, he had to give them that.”
“ ‘I enjoyed the rock and roll more than I expected,’ she said. ‘It’s a fine catharsis. A bit wearing on the nerves, however.’ ”
The hero of our story, Mike Rayburn, is not a nurse—he is a doctor from Texas offered a six-month-long fellowship at a research hospital in Sydney, Australia. This means two things: One, he will have to leave his fiancée nurse Susan Carter behind, and two, this book is not a nurse novel.
When Mike breaks the news to Susan that they will be parted for half a year, just when she was expecting to finally get married next month, she is pissed! So he hadn’t asked her to move up the ceremony and come with him, and when he meets beautiful fellow fellow Dr. Linda Purnell, he seems to forget Susan ever existed.
Linda is quickly established as an intelligent and thoughtful doctor heading the dermatology lab. Sophisticated yet guileless, “she could meet most males squarely on their own ground.” Soon she and Mike are great friends, friends who kiss and throw their arms around each other and don’t mention their fiancées waiting for them back home. They go on a lot of dates, and Mike frets that “though he always kissed Linda goodnight before leaving her, their relationship didn’t seem to be getting any further, any more intimate.” Mike is something of a louse.
We follow Mike through various medical adventures, the aforementioned dates with Linda, and his regular but infrequent and unsuccessful struggles with his conscience. Eventually he drops his wallet and a photo of Susan falls out, and that’s that. In a few more rapid-fire pages, the book perfunctorily disposes of all the characters we’ve met to date, including Susan, who writes a very pretty letter of apology to Mike for not having been more supportive. Linda takes a job in Honolulu and never sees Mike again, but sends him a fairly tragic letter saying that she’s seeing a lot of an old friend whom she doesn’t love but who proposes regularly, concluding, “Perhaps one day I will say yes. I am very fond of him and he would make a fine husband. He would want me to give up my hospital work though, and I don’t know whether I am ready to do this yet.” So while Mike walks away with a satisfying career, a loyal fiancée, and a fairly successful fling with a beautiful and intelligent woman, Linda seems destined for a loveless marriage and the forced abandonment of the career she has worked nearly a decade for.
It’s an entertaining book, if poorly copy edited (you know how I just abhor that) and a bit unchivalrous. Linda is by far the most attractive character in the book, inside and out, and her heart is clearly broken by Mike, who does not spend much time feeling bad about his behavior. It’s hard to watch someone win the game when they do not deserve to. I have to wonder who the intended audience is for this story, but if the women characters are as a rule better drawn and more interesting than the men, neither Susan nor Linda deserve the way they are treated by our alleged hero, who is clearly a cavalier and shallow ass. We are not told if Mike mentions his affair with Linda to Susan, but I’m guessing he never gets around to that, either. I might forgive him if he demonstrated any significant remorse or self-awareness of his failures in this situation, but in the end all we’re left with his is sad wish, “If only Western men were allowed more than one wife …” For my part, I’m going to lament that I spent so much time with such a callow ass.